By Simon Young
Visit Vegas often enough and you start to get used to the oddities of the place. At the WSOP last year, for example, an eight-foot peanut wandered around the Rio hotel. My cynicism about blatant snack pimping soon passed when said yellow lump of foam delivered boxes of free peanuts to the assembled press corps. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.
Then on Day 1C he had a run-in and near-fisticuffs with loud-mouth pro Mike Matusow, and the nut (Mr Peanut, not Matusow) went up in my estimation considerably.
Salt of the earth: Mr Peanut does his thing
This year Mr Peanut is back, but he’s just one of many strange sights around the Rio where the WSOP is being staged. We had a fully-costumed wizard playing yesterday (his chips disappeared as if by magic), a fortune teller is in the gaming expo up the hall offering players the chance to peek into their poker future – for “you will meet a tall, dark stranger”, read “you will be busted by a bloke in a black hoodie” – and yesterday an ageing Wayne Newton officially launched the Main Event surrounded by dancing girls and a brass band.
All these bizarre goings-on add to the charm of an extraordinary tournament in a bonkers city. It’s why players flock here by the thousands each year, and why so many try to qualify on sites like PartyPoker to do so for very little outlay.
Jens Balsby: online pro with eyes on the big prize
One of our qualifiers, 24-year-old Jens Balsby from Denmark, has been to Vegas several times, but is experiencing his first Main Event. Before he sat down today he said he was relaxed and looking forward to a good run at a big cash.
While not piling up the chips, he still has 15,000 or so to play with as the field approached the dinner break. As an online pro he be confident of building as the evening goes on.
It seems that one of our married couple – Stefan and Sylvia Sulek – is out. Stefan was nowhere to be seen during my last tour of the Amazon Room. Sylvia, however, is still holding her own on about 18,000 chips despite being stuck two seats from Sweden’s uber-aggressive William Thorson